Man discovers links to legendary musicians

Sep. 02, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

It wasn’t until after his father’s death that Sanford resident Ron Bullard realized the musician named “Curly,” with whom his father had spent so much time, was so well-known.

Bullard’s father, John, was a musician himself and spent time playing in Nashville, the home of country music. After his father’s death in 2002, the younger Bullard, now 67, did a little digging, curious to discover the extent of his father’s connection with a musician named Curly Chalker, who also had recorded with the likes of Elvis Presley and Duke Ellington. Chalker, a member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, had a brother, Bill, and sister, Chuck, who lived in Sanford from the 1970s to the 1990s.

“My dad, he had always wanted to do the country singing in Nashville,” Bullard said. “That was a little dream of his. By getting to know Bill and Chuck like he did, he was able to visit Curly Chalker.”

Back in 1985, John took his son to Nashville to visit Chalker at his home. The little group went fishing with Chalker’s stepson out by Dolly Parton’s house. Afterward, they returned to the house and drove to the Country Hall of Fame in Nashville to watch Curly play.

“That was really an experience for me,” Bullard said. “That night, daddy got up and did his little singing, and Bill got up and did some singing.”

But at the time, Bullard wasn’t aware of Chalker’s credentials. Chalker visited Sanford a couple times and spent a little time with the family while visiting his brother and sister. And after both his parents had passed away, Bullard began reflecting more on Curly Chalker and the relationship the musician had with his father.

“He left an impression on you you wouldn’t believe,” Bullard said.

Along the way, Bullard discovered that Chalker had played with the Rat Pack — the famous Las Vegas-based group of musicians that included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

“That right there put me on a train, you might say,” Bullard said, “just made me focus on it ... .”  

Bullard’s research revealed many popular names  with whom Chalker had played or recorded, varied names like Presley, Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Linda Ronstadt. He compiled all the information he found by searching online, and when he was done, he put it in booklet form – complete with a list of Chalker’s various awards and accomplishments. The list is lengthy.

Bullard said now he wishes his father could have been aware of Chalker’s connections.

“My dad didn’t know, he had no idea ... what he had done, what he had accomplished during his career, he had no idea about it ...,” Bullard said. “My dad would want to know about all of it. I’m doing it for him.”